Story and photos by Rick Gorski
St. George’s Anglican Church parishioner Grant Johnston, age 95, tapping sugar maples on his property in Glen Williams. (March 25, 2013)
Grant, born and raised on Manitoulin Island, recalls the changes in collecting maple sap and making syrup from his youth and today. Then the family farm required everyone’s’ help. There was a lot more bush than arable land so maple syrup was a valuable product of the farm with the family producing 50 gallons of maple syrup a year.
Grant and his siblings would run home after school to collect the maple sap in hand hewn wooden buckets made by his dad, and load them into large wooden barrels on the horse drawn wagon. The children all had their own favourite trees with such claims as the `best producer` and the `sweetest tasting tree` being made.
Grant sometimes looked after managing the fire and the boiling of the sap in the home crafted evaporator pans. One day, he inadvertently let the pans run dry and ruined the syrup. He thought that his days were over and that he would really catch it from his dad for this, but his father accepted the error and said let’s fix this together so we can start boiling again.
Maple syrup is a favourite and is a staple in the Johnston kitchen, where Grant still enjoys a little of the maple nectar in his morning coffee.